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Evaluating the structure of commensalistic epiphyte–phorophyte networks: A comparative perspective of biotic interactions

AuthorsNaranjo, Carlos; Iriondo, José M.; Riofrio, María L.; Lara-Romero, Carlos
KeywordsEcological interactions
Issue DateApr-2019
PublisherOxford University Press
CitationAoB Plants 11(2): plz011 (2019)
AbstractEpiphytic vascular plants comprise an essential part of the tropical flora and are a key component for ecosystem functioning. Some recent studies have used a network approach to investigate the interaction of epiphytes with host phorophytes at the community level. However, knowledge on commensalistic epiphyte–phoro-phyte network structure still lags behind with regard to other biotic interaction networks. Our goal was to provide a more complete overall perspective on commensalistic epiphyte–phorophyte interaction and its placement with respect to other better studied mutualistic interactions. We hypothesized that the intensity of the fitness effect of the different types of biotic interactions would determine the degree of specialization of the interacting organisms. Thus, commensalistic epiphyte–phorophyte interactions would have lower specialization than mutualistic interactions. We compiled and analysed the structural properties (nestedness, network specialization and modularity) of 12 commensalistic epiphyte–phorophyte networks and compared them with the same metrics to 11 ant–myrme-cophyte, 86 pollination and 13 seed dispersal mutualistic networks. Epiphyte–phorophyte networks were nested and modular with regard to the corresponding null models and had greater nestedness than mutualistic networks, whereas specialization and modularity were significantly lower. Commensalistic epiphyte–phorophyte networks of interactions are both nested and modular, and hence, are structured in a similar way to most other types of networks that involve co-evolutionary interactions. Nevertheless, the nature and intensity of the ecological processes involved in the generation of these patterns is likely to differ. The lower values of modularity in commensalistic epiphyte–phorophyte networks are probably due to the low levels of specialization and the lack of co-evolutionary processes between the interacting partners.
Publisher version (URL)http://doi.org/10.1093/aobpla/plz011
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